By Andy Hall
A stunning volley from Maxi Rodríguez guided RCD Espanyol to a 2-1 win against Levante UD to put them back in third place in the Primera División, while Villarreal CF and Real Betis Balompié were both held.
Espanyol's 13th victory of the season did not go all their own way, however, as they were forced to come from behind after Levante's on-loan striker Sergio García broke the deadlock from close range on 23 minutes. José Emilio Amavisca rifled home an equaliser on the half-hour mark after goalkeeper Juan Luis Mora could only parry into his path. Maxi sealed the comeback and three crucial points just after the hour with a sublime volley from the edge of the area.
The result saw them leapfrog Villarreal into third after the UEFA Cup challengers were held to a 1-1 draw at relegation strugglers CD Numancia. Juan Román Riquelme put the visitors ahead on 27 minutes with a low, rasping shot and José Mari Romero and Rodolfo Arruabarrena both went close to extending the lead. Numancia, who remain bottom with 20 points, grabbed a share of the spoils through Carlos Merino's leveller on the hour.
Betis also missed a chance to make up ground at the top after being held at home by Getafe CF. Vivar Dorado opened the scoring for the capital side on 14 minutes with a terrific strike but Betis were back on level terms just before the half-hour mark when David Rivas rose highest to head in. Argentinian defender Mariano Pernía put Getafe back in front with a sensational long-range volley but Betis again fought back and earned a 2-2 draw on 54 minutes when Sergio Aragoneses failed to gather Marcos Assunçao's direct free-kick.
Tristán on target
Athletic Club Bilbao scored two in the final 20 minutes to earn a hard-fought 3-1 win against Albacete Balompié to go ninth, a point ahead of RC Deportivo La Coruña who defeated Málaga CF thanks to a solitary Diego Tristán strike from the spot. Real Zaragoza won by the same narrow scoreline against Real Racing Club Santander, while RCD Mallorca remain in the relegation zone despite a 3-2 victory against Real Sociedad de Fútbol at Son Moix. Bernardo Romeo scored twice.
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